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NOVEMBER 20, 1878.
Rtdek & Morse, Pkinters.
Citizen Office, 1879.
^"**-'> t -, ^^^:
lliwi ^jiiircn tt
V. J. P. ieals Jr. Mi Sev. Horatio Alpr,
B^to^t Wmlta^lmm CfcMPe
NOVEMBER 20, 1878.
Ryder & Morse, Printers.
Citizen Office. 1870.
BY J. P. SHEAFE, JR.
At a preliminary meeting of the committee of arrangements
the part assigned rae in the exercises of this day, was to tell
the storv of those eaiiy meeting houses which were built on
the identical spot, or within a few feet of where we now stand;
and also to recount those scenes and events of interest which
cluster so thickly about the early religious life of this place.
Surely this is an ample field, and the material abundant for
the few moments which it is my privilege to occupy.
But where shall I begin? Full well I know where I must
stop. Tliis church was dedicated fifty years ago, to-day. I
cannot pass that bound without, trenching on another's field.
''Backward," then, ''turn backward, O time, in your flight,"
and we thread our way through the dim mists of the past,
backward two hundred and fifty years, and we stand here in
the great primeval temple, the first great house of worship,
tlie house not made with hands, enduring as the rocky
foundations of the earth. Behold the first grand house of
God, yon lofty hills, more beautiful than Corinthian columns,
as pillars support the arching dome of heaven. Here, in the
urand Cathedral of Nature, the sons of the forest were wont
to bow themselves in awe and to worship the Great Spirit
Freely they came and went through this beautiful vale two
hundred and fifty years ago, and at that very time the man of
genius and of power who was soon to reveal to them the God
whom they ignorantly worshipped, the man who would soon
organize among the Indians a church of the living God, had
already completed his college course at Cambridge, England
and was preparing mind and heart for the great work which
would soon engross all his energies-; and powers.
That man was John Eliot, born in Nazing, England, in the
year 1604. Bear in mind that England had not jet made a
single permanent settlement in this western world. James-
town, Quebec, Manhattan Island, and Plymouth Rock were
only names without a local habitation; but he who was to be
the Apostolic man among the Indians of this place, had al-
ready begun to imbibe the spirit and the love of God in a
home where dwelt, according to his own words, "-the fear of
God, his word and prayer." He received a liberal education,
and took his -degree from College in 1623. Eliot began his
public life as a teacher; but tradition informs us thai he had
a way and a will of his own, and so persistently did he main-
tain them that he was forijidden to teach in his native l.iud.
If one field was denied him, he would take another, and we
find him in 1631, embarked in the ship Lion, bound for the
New World. It wiis new; the Pilgrims hikl landed but 11
years before. This beautiful valley was then alnu^st an utter
stranger to the face or form of tlie wliite man.
The good ship Lion speeds upon her way, but how little
did the master or the crew realize- to what an extent the desti-
nies of New England depended upon the safety of that passage.
Had that ship foundered in the deep, how changed had been
the duties of the chronicler of this, the "'Place of Mills."'
That watchful eye which suffers not a sparrow t<> fall un-
noticed kept constant vigil over wiiul and wave. <)n Nov.
2d, 1631, John Eliot of blessed Mem<ny, anivud in I^oslon.
Furnished with eminent qualifications and filled with Christian
zeal no time was to be lost, where the harvest might l)e abun-
dant, waiting only for the hns!)andman. On the very sanu^
month that Eliot landed in Boston lu* was elected teacher in
the First Church, Roxbury, and on Nov. 5th of the next year
he was ordained pastor of tlu; Society.* The woik of Eliot
was now fairly begun, only 15 miles fiom this spot. A man
with such boundless sympathies for his fellowmen, could not
long remain indifferent to the wretched condition (;f thu In-
dians. Then as now they had hardly a right which the
white man was bound to respect. They were between two
*Historioal Skolch l)y Rev. D. Wi,c;ht. page 2(1
destroying elements; the stronger and more warlike tribes of
the remote parts were more than a match for them in the
field, and they were therefore obliged to draw in toward the
English settlements for protection. But the English civiliza-
tion proved a more insidious, though not less fatal foe. Eliot
was moved with compassion for them and determined to give
a part at least of his time and labor for their improvement.
But their launuage ! how could he ever find courage to con-
tend with so ureal a difficulty? "Our readers will stand
aghast"says Cotton Mather "at a few instances." The Indian
word which corivsponds to "our lusts" is awordof 32 letters
— Nura-mat-che-kod-tau-ta-moon-gan-un-non-ash. This little
word is quite outdone by a woid of 43 letters which sig-
nifies "our question."* I shall have to beg to be excused
from pronouncing this word, as my knowledge of Indian is
not very extensive. Such difficulties as these were powerless
to quench the ai'dor of the apostle. Says Edward Everett in
his address at Bloody Brook: "Since the death of Paul a
martyr, truer, warmer s])irit than John Eliot never lived.
And taking the state of the counti-y, the narrowness of the
means and the rudeness of the age into cousideration,the his-
tory of the Christian Church does not contain an example of
resolute, untiring successful labor, superior to that of transla-
ting the entire Scri]>tures in the language of the native tribes of
Massachusetts.!" Eliot, determined to learn the Indian lan-
guage finds a young Indian who has lived in an English family
and has learned the English tongue. This Indian, he tells us,
seamed of much capacity, and Eliot took him to his own
house, and tlvre wirh marvelous patience taught him to read
write and speak the Massachusett.s language. When Mather
stumbles on these words, he says "One would think that
these words hud been growing ever since Babel unto the di-
mensions to which they are now extended." But persist-
ence and enej'^v will make almost anything yield; and in]the
space of two years, Eliot was able to converse with the
Indians in theii- own tongue. Just at this time in the year
*Biglow's History of Xalick. paa;e 48.
tBacoji's History i 1 \atifk. ))age 12.
1646, the Legislature of Mass,, passed "An Act for Propaga-
ting the Gospel among the Indians." This made an auspicious
opening for Eliot. He had some of the language at his com-
mand, and no time was to be lost. He sent word to the
Indians who were then living at Nonantum, that if they de-
sired he would come and instruct them in the word of God.
Among this tribe of Indians was one Waban, a principal man
and kind of chief justice among them. The Indians, men,
women and children gathered into Waban's spacious wig-
wam, and there Oct. 2S, 1640, P^liot preached his first sermon
to the Indians,* not simply his first sermon,but the first sermon
which was ever preached by a white man in the Indian's native
tongue. What was the text of the first sermon to the sous of
the forest? Ez. 37 — 9. "-Then said he unto me Prophesy unto
the wind, prophesy son of man, and say unto the wind, thus
said the Lord God, Come from the four winds O breath, aud
breathe upon these slain, that they may live." What wisdom
in the choice of the passage! There he was in the wigwam
of Waban, and Waban signifies wind. Prophesy unto Waban,
prophesy, son of man, and say unto Waban, Thus saith the
Lord God. And the words were not without effect. I would
we might have looked in upon that congregation, the service
was three hours long and when Eliot asked them at the close
if they were not weary, they answered Nol But Eliot re-
marks, "We resolved to leave them with an appetite." In
Eliot's account of this meeting, he shows that the Indian
language was not quite as familiar as his mother tongue, for
he says: "We began with prayer, which was now in English,
we being not so far acquainted with the Indian language as
to expressour hearts therein l)efore God and them." We hope
to be able to do this ere long.f"
It was a blessed sight he says to see these outcasts dil-
igently attending to the blessed word. From this time the
work went on rapidly. The Indians were assembled for service
every two weeks, and at the end of the sermon they were
asked if they understood what had been said, they answer-
*Bigelow's History of Natick. page -oO.
tSketcli of Life of John Eliot, bv Alexamler Young.
ed — "All of it." They were also allowed to ask questions,
some of wliioh were as follows: Whether Jesus Christ could
understand prayers in the Indian language? How all the
world became full of people? If they were all once drowned?*
And many other questions of like character which certainly
evinced a good degree of common sense; and this is the con-
stant affirmation of Eliot that the Indians are of good ability
and apt to learn.
In 1650, Eliot sought a spot where he might build an In-
dian town, and establish a church. This was the favored
spot. It was a part of Dedham, and in behalf of the Indians
Eliot petitioned the General Couit that it might be granted
for that purpose. It was yielded by the town of Dedham in
exchange for Deerfield, formerl}- owned by the Indians. Eliot
was a man of dispatch. As §oon as the land was granted, he
moved his Indian families to the spot, and that same year,
1650, they cast themselves into toim for the ordering of civil
affairs, and bound themselves together i)y a covenant, a few
Hues of which I will quote. "We give ourselves and our
children to God* to be his people. He shall rule in all our
affairs, not only in our religion and the affairs of church, but
also in all our works and affairs in this world. Let the grace
of Christ help us. Send thy spirit into our hearts, and let
it teach us. Lord take us to be Thy people, and let us take
Thee to be our God."t
This is the only covenant I remember to hdve seen among
the record of this early people. It is Ijeautiful in its simplic-
ity and abundantly comprehensive in its scope. This cove-
nant adopted by the first worshipers upon this spot would be
most heartily endorsed by the worshipeis who now assemble
from week to week in this place. Nearly all the land of Na-
tick'was owned by John Speene, his brethren and kindred, at
the suggestion of Eliot they all consented to relinquish their
rights and on one of the lecture days publicly and solemnly
in the presence of the Lord and all the people, John Speene,
•*Bigio\v's History of of Natich. pages '12 it 'l'-\.
I Historical SivCtch delivered in 1828, Xov. 2(Hh at dedication of the
his kindred, friends and posterity gave up all their right and
interest in the land in and about Natick, so that the pray-
ing Indians might make a town, reserving only their Wyers.*
These were fences of stakes and stones built across the river
for the purpose of catching fish. A little more than a year
ago when the water was very low in the river, one of these
wyers might have been distinctly seen about ten rods this
side of Dover Bridge. The stones were so near the surface
of the water that with a pair of boots one could easily walk
across the river upon the wall of stones.
The land having been granted and ceded to the Indians,
the town was laid out, on road on the South side of the riv-
er, two on the North side; and on these roads the land was di-
vided into lots and distributed among the propi ietors of the
town. Along these roads the little Indian liouses and wig-
wams were built. About this spot when- we now stand was
built a large handsome fort of a civcnlar form, palisaded with
trees. In front and spanning the river was a I -ridge in the
form of an arch. 8 feet high in the centre and the foundations
secured with stones. f This bridge Eliot tauuht them to
build — another illustration of the versatility of lii.s genius.
Now, my friends, within this circular fort we will build in
our minds eye, a plain little wooden house, of ihe English
style, 25x50ft. and two stories in height, ileic we have in
mind the picture, the roads, little Indian honsts, the river,
bridge, fort and sacr^^l little house witliin. This is Xatick,
227 years ago.
I said a sacred little liouse. That was th.' first Indian
Church in America. This little Meeting House, the fir&t up-
on this spot, was erected in 1631. It happened in this wise,
gathered as they doubtless often were in the shadows of that
venerable Oak which bears the Apostles name, the follow-
ing is Eliot's account of the building of the lirst Meeting
House "We must of necessity have a house (o lodge and
meet in and wherein to lay our provisions and clothes which
*Biglow's History of Natick, page 28. ,
tBigiovv's History of Natick. page 25; also Bacon's* History, page 09
Tlie bridge was 80ft long and 8ft liigli.
cannot be in wigwams" "I set the Indians therefore to fell
and square timber; and when it was ready I went and many
of them vdth me, and on their shoulders carried all the tim-
ber together"* One white carpenter assisted the Indians in
raising the l)uilding and the structure was soon complete.
We step inside and with Gookin's description we see, not
rich carpets, and soft cushions, not even pewi^ for the Indians
were strongly opposed to them, and when in the later Meet-
ing Houses pews were introduced, the Indians seldom came.
The lower story is simply a large plain room, "which serves
as Meeting House on the Lord's day and School House on
the week-days. There is a large canopy of mats raised upon
poles for Mr. P^liot and his company, and other sorts of canopies
for themselves and other hearers to sit under. The men and
women were placed apart.'' Just what purpose these cano-
j)ies served can we only conjecture. f But let us glance up
stairs. "The upper room is a kind of wardrobe, where the In-
dians hang up their skins and other things of value. In one
corner of this room Mr. Eliot has an apartment partitioned off,
with a bed and bedstead in it." Here in this little house,
just nbont one half as large as the present church, Meeting
House, School House, wardrobe, safe, private apartment and
ytudy, all in one, Eliot toiled and labored with his Indian
■friends for more than a quarter of a century. How gladly
\v*tul(l we follow him, did time permit, through those years
of toil and hardship, of privation and discouragements, and
of glorious success It was a season of hardship, for many of
the sachems and medicine men of the surrounding tribes
were suspicious of him. or jealous of his influence- When he
was threatened or thrust out, his answer was "I amaboutthe
work of the great (rod, and he is with me so that I fear not
all the ^;achems in the country. Fll go on. and do you touch
me if you dare."
Oct. to, 16") 2, was the great questioning day, the divines
*Bii;lo\v's History (if Natick page 18 and 19. also quoted by Rev Alex.
Vniiiig. in sivetch (if tlip Lifft of John Eliot.
•tAs tli(^ uppor p-irt of tins liuildiii.a; was used as a Store-house, for skins
ifec. the canopies may have been needed to protect the heads of the
I'oiigrearatioM below, "from whatever might find its way through the
cracks in the lioor.
from all the neighborhood, their friends and interpreters met
at Natick to judge of the fitness of the Indians to be admitted
to Church Communion. About 15 made open and distinct
confession of their faith, and a number were then baptised,
but for some reason they were still kept on probation until
1660, when the first Indian Church was organized. Of this
church no records can be found, not even to tell the number
of which it was composed. We learn tnat in 1670 the com-
municants numbered from 40 to 50.
These years were years of incessant toil for the Apostle to
the Indians. Aside from the work which must necessarily
devolve upon him, we find continual records of his i)etitions
and appeals to the General Court in behalf of the Indians,
and for the maintenance of their rights. It is during these
years that Eliot makes his Grammar of the Indian Language.
It Ib on this very spot, and in that first meeting house, that
he ponders over the scheme of the Indian Bible. Doubtless,
much of the work was done in this place. We find him
writing letter after letter to friends in England, and to the
"High and mighty Prince Charles the Secoiul,"' btigging for
money to have his Bible printed; and, at length, he suc-
ceeded. This was the first Bible printed on the American
continent. The New Testament was printed at Cambridge,
in 1661, and the Old Testament, in 1668. Glad am I that
the town of Natick has been able to procure a copy of
Eliot's translation of the Bible. It is a monument of the
labor which has been performed here, and the town treasures
it in her safest archives.*
1675 approaches — a sad time for the little community at
Natick. It brings King Philip's war. The Government is
suspicious of the Indians, fearing that, when the war-whoop
sounds through the land, the praying Indians will take up
arms against the whites; and had not Eliot and General
Gookin come to their defense, the Government would even
then have destroyed them. As it was, the Natick Indians,
with several other establishments, were compelled to gather
*During the Anniversary Exercises this copy of Eliot's Indian Bible might
hare been seen upon the puipit, and wi'ih Vw Biblo was. a copy of the
Psalms translated into Indian, owned by iVlr. Elijaii Perry.
up what they could and be sent off to "Deare Island" in Bos-
ton harbor, where they passed a most wretched winter, amid
much privation and suffering. After the death of King Phil-
ip, these poor Indians were allowed to straggle back to their
homes as best they could, but their strength and numbers
were sadly diminished by sickness and death.
The scholars and inhabitants of Natick read in history of
King Philip's War, and how hostilities were begun because a
friendly Indian was found murdered, probably by Philip's
men, but do they know and realize how closely those events
are connected with the history of this town? Do they
know that the friendly Indian was perfectly at home on
these lovely liill-sides and by this rolling stream? That In-
dian was none other than John Sassamon — educated by the
English — the same who assisted Eliot in translating the Bi-
ble. He was converted to Christianity, and was once a
school-master in this veiy town of Natick. It was he who
so kindly and timely made the Government of Plymouth
acquainted with the plan by which Philip intended to cut off
every English settlement in New England.
In the Roxbury Church Records, Eliot speaks of him thus:
"The Winter past, John Sassamon was murdered by wick-
ed Indians. He was a man of eminent parts and wit. He
was of late years converted, joined to the Church at Natick,
baptized and sent by the Church to Asowamsik, in Plym-
outh Patent, to teach the gospel." *
We must speedily pass the remainder of the Apostle's
years. He rested from his labors May 20, 1690, at the age
of 86. Hi§ last words were, "Welcome joyi" These words
are a fitting close and commentary on such a life, so welcome
and of such joy for those to whom he bore the glad tidings
and the gospel truth. He was buried in the ministers' tomb
at Roxbury, where a monument records his name. And, a
few feet from this church, stands a humble shaft to com-
memorate his hibor:* in this place. The Apostle provides a
successor ere the time of his departure is at hand; and or-
dains an Indian minister, Daniel Takawambait, as shepherd
*Citatioii by liov. Uraiiiel VViglif,, Roxbury Church Records pag« 263.
of the flock. At what time he was ordained is not known,
but it must have been some time before 1H87. He died Sept.
17, 1716; and leaves an impression whicli says he was a good
man and wise. The humble slab which records his name,
age, and the date of his departure, may still be seen on tht^
sidewalk, close to the fence, and nearly opposite this church.
But the Natick community sadly depreciated after the
death of Eliot. In 1698, the record says:
''The Church consists of seven men and three woincii.
There are here fifty-seven men, fifty-one women, and seventy
children under sixteen years of age. No school-master; and
but one child can read." *
Daniel Takawambait was followed l)y Shouks, an Indian,
who remained about the" place, and preached ()ccasi(-)nal!y,
until the time of Mr. Peabody, in 1721. May 11, 1710, wo
find a record that the proprietors are called t()<^ethev, and
John Neesmunin is voted in as a proprietor, — "-if," says the
record, "he live and die in the Gospel ministry at Natick."
He did not so continue, bat very soon left the place.
Let us now pause, for a moment, upon a matter of consid-
erable importance. You would hardly suppose that so large
a thing as a meeting house could be lost in so small a ])hice
as South Natick. Such seems, however, to be thn fact; and
here is the evidence. I copy, word tor word, ilic rcciJid
made by Mr. Austin Bacon from the State files of 169it
"1699. Number, thirty families. The petitioners aiv tlu-
remainder of the Church of Christ, ])lantc(l fifty years since
by Eliot, but b}' deaths and removals we are greatly dimin-
ished and impoverished. Our Meeting House is fallen down
and we are unable to build another, and wish to sell to .John
Coller, Jr., Carpenter, a small nook of our Plantation, of
about 200 acres, to pay him for erecting a Meeting House/" f
There are two important facts here. One — wiiich :so
many have sought in vain to know — what became of the old
Eliot first church, and at what date it disappeared? In 1699,
*Biglow's History of Natick, page 41.
tThis quotation is very much abridged ; for llu' full docuiiueiit, uiiicli I
have copied veibatim fioui the State Files, and which is much more
explicit, see appendix.
the Indians say of their church — and it can be no other than
the original Eliot Church of 1651— ''Our Church is fallen
down." There is the old church in ruins, and the Indians
are petitioning for the right to sell a small nook of their
Plantation to pay for a new one. This petition is signed by
eighteen Indians; and Thomas Sawin testifies to the truth of
the petition, and that it is good for the Indians. Now, was
this new meeting house built in about 1700? Consult the
State files, volume 30, page 602, and you will read:
''John Coller, Jr., in 1702, petitions the General Court to
grant him the Nook of Indian land upon which he is then
living as pay for building the Meeting House, saying that
•he had been obliged to expose his own estate for sale, in or-
der to meet the expense ot building the House." *
That his claim was a just one is evident, for he retained
tiie land with undisputed right, and the deeds are still ex-
tant showing that he conveyed it light and title to others,
and that light has never yet been questioned, f This, then,
is the second meeting house.. In 1721, Mr. Oliver Peabody
comes as a missionary to this place. It has been but twenty-
one years since the CoUer meeting house was built, but the
l)eople appear lo thinlc it necessary wh«n they have anew
minister to have a new house for him. Therefore, we read
that in 1720 a meeting of the people was called to consider
the plan of building a new meeting house. There seems to
have been no opposition, and a committee was chosen,
and empowered to have the new house built near the spot
on which the old one stood. And the records say that, Sept.
13,1721, a meeting of the proprietors was lawfully warned,
at which time they granted unto Moses Smith, of Needham,
forty acres of land on the southwesterly side of Pegan Hill;
said land to pay for finishing the meeting house, ij: This, the
•*See petition of John Coller,Jr. in appendix, from tlie State Files Vol. 30
ITliis petition was grauted in the Council and agreed to in the Honse of
Repiesentativea. See appendix from State Files Vol. 30 page 504.
jBiglow's History of Natick page 28. At this meeting Major Fullatn and
Lieut. Tliomas Sawin were chosen a Committee, "to see that tlie
work he well done."'
Peabody House, is the third meeting house.*
As the people went from Sunday to Sunday in and out of
this third meeting house, they used to step across the old
ditch which surrounded the circular fort in the days of Eliot.
We are told that the circular ridge of the old fort could l)e
distinctly seen when the ground was broken for the building
of this church.f By some strange mixture of dates, we are
told, by the various histories of Natick, that the Badger
meeting house — which was the fourth — was raised in 17.";3
or 4. But the record made at the time, by the Deacon of
the church, Mr. John Jones, Esq., Justice of the Peace, reads
thus: "On June 8, 1749, the meeting house was- raised."
And if you consult the records of that year, you will find the
deacon's record was correct.:}: This house was finished in
1767, and remained standing until 1812. But in this brief
period of forty-five years, the meeting house had outlived its
usefulness. It was abandoned by the worshipers, probably
very soon after Mr. Badger finished his public ministry,
which was in the year 1799.
Very few cherished any sacred associations with the
■building; many regarded this meeting house with feelings
quite the reverse. So it was neglected, and even mutilated,
by the villagers. It was used, at last, for a store-house and
barn. The farmers housed their produce here, and it proved
a convenient place for hay and corn-stalks. This building
became, at length, an eye-sore to the communit}-. Those
who with zeal had helped to build, would now gladly be rid
of it. Though a feeling of sadness must have attended the
falling to pieces of this old chnrch, yet it was not withouu
its humorous side. Many amusing anecdotes are related at
the expense of the old meeting house. To one of these I
will refer. It appears that when the first meeting house in
*For proof that this was a distinct Meeting House, and not tiie old one
refitted, see appendix.
tBiglow's History of Natick page 25.
iDeacon John Jones was amanot very marlced ability in the early history
of this town. He was great great ..grand-son of Lewis Jones, who
came from England about 1640. The 6th, 7th and Sth generations of
the descendants of the original settlei are at the present time constant
attendants at this Chnrch.
the north part of the town was completed, in 1799, it was
not very beautiful or picturesque. Without exaggeration it
might havi) been called quite i)lain; so thought the good
man, Mr. Loring, who preached there between 1806 and 7.
He was wont to speak rather lightly of the appearance of
the house, until one day the deacon, Samuel Fiske, took
him down to see the old Badger meeting house. As they
approached, he beheld with consternation the hay and corn-
stalks protruding from the windows, and the clapboards
torn off as high up as they could be reached. In amazement
the good man halts, and we can seem to see him raise his
pious hands as he exclaimed, "Oh, Lord, I have heard of thy
house; but now mine eyes have seen thy barnf'' * But even
as a barn it was not long to remain. May 27, 1812, it was
pulled down by the young men, in an election-day frolic, and
<listributed upon the various wood-piles in the neighbor-
hood.! Thus falls the Badger meeting house, the fourth
which had been built upon or within a few feet of this very
I have now traversed a space of almost two hundred and
fifty years. I have seized but a fragment here and there
along the way. Such as I have gleaned I cordially submit
to you, without note or comment. And I do so with the
"That all the good the past hath had,
Remains to make our own time glad."
And as we worship upon the same spot where our fore-
fathers worshiped, so let us ever maintain their zeal of spirit,
their singleness of purpose and their purity of heart. Then
shall we have reason to rejoice in the hope that the good
work which they began we may carry forward and perpet-
uate. "Thuss the old order changeth to the new, and God
fulfills himself in many ways."
*Historic Notes by Mr. Austin Bacon.
tBiglow's History of Natick, page i9.
It seems a very singular fact that the various writers
upon the history of Natick should all have overlooked the
second Indian meeting house, which was built upon the spot
where the Eliot Church now stands ; so singular, indeed,
that many persons are incredulous, and, failing to see the
authority, fail to believe in its existence. I was put upon
the track of this forgotten meeting house by a kind sugges-
tion from Mr. Austin Bacon, and I take this opportunity to
express my indebtedness to him. I have made a careful
study of the matter, and have obtained abundant proof and
explicit testimony for the existence of an Indian meeting
house, erected about the year 1700, upon the spot, or very
near where the Unitarian Church now stands. That I may
substantiate the statements of the foregoing address, viz,:
that the present Unitarian Church is the fifth meeting house
which has been built upon this site, I append three peti-
tions which I have carefully copied, word for word, from the
original manuscripts preserved in the State files at the State
House. These documents are peculiarly interesting, and I
have endeavored to preserve the cuj-ious expressions, abbre-
viations and spelling of the original.
State Files, Vol. 30, page 503: — "To his Excellency,
Richard, Earl of Bellmont, Captain General & Governor in
Chief of his Ma'ty's Province of the Massachusetts Bay, &c.,
and to the Hon'ble Council and Representatives of the said
Province convened in General assembly. May 81st, 1699.
The humble address and petition of his Ma'ty's Subjects,
the Indian natives of Natick, containing about SO families.
In most humble wise showeth. That your Petitioners are
the remainder of the Church of Christ there planted about
50 years since by the Reverent servant of Christ Jesus, Mr.
John Eliot, deceased, and by the death of many, & removall
of others, who during the time of the late wars have been
sojourning; among the English for their support, and are not
yet returned to their plantations, wee are now greatly di-
minished and impoverished. Our meeting house where wee
were wont constantly to meet Sabath days & lecture days,
to worship God is fallen downe and wee are not able to
build us another.
Our humble request to your Excellency and the hon'ble
Court therefore is, that wee may be licensed to sell unto
John Coller junr. Carpenter, a small nook of our plantation,
containing about 200 acres, the Plat where of wee have here
unto annexed, it lying remote from us wee shall not be
damnified by our parting there with, and with the price
there of, wee shall by him have built for us, a place for our
comfortable meeting together. Wee pray therefore your
favour for your consent here unto and wee shall remain as
in duty wee are bound humbly to pray &c."
The person who presents this petition is evidently familiar
with the affairs of the Natick Indians, and at the end of the
petition he writes these words:
"I can and do testifie to the truth of what is above writ-
ten, &, do apprehend it a good to ye Indians, & for this end
I do put mj^ name." To this testimony, a later hand has
afhxed the name ''Thomas Sawin.'"
This petition, with its confirmation, shows clearly that in
1699, the old Eliot meeting liouse had fallen down, and that
the Indians were very desirous that another should be built.
It is evident from the petition that the Indians had con-
sulted "John Coller junr., Carpenter." and knew that for the
nook of land '"•they could have built for them a comfortable
place for meeting together."" The question now is, Did
John Coller, junr., build the meeting house? In answer to
this question, I submit the' petition of John Coller, which I
have copied from his own hand-writing:
State Files, Vol. 30, page 502:— "To his Excell'cy Jo-
seph Dudley, Esqr., Govern'r, &c. These are Humbly to
inform yr Much Hon'rd Great & General Court now as-
sembled in Boston,
That I the subscriber have built & erected a Meeting
house for the Pul)lick worship of God amongst ye Indians of
Natick according to agreement with ye Town of s'd Na-
tiek and also the advioe & direction of the late . Hon'ble
Lt. Governor and ye Hon'ble Mr. Danforth. And I
now living upon a corner of Land in s'd Natick
which ye s'd Town did agree to Grant to me for
s'd building, Provid they did obtain Liberty, as by refer-
ence to their Petition & Plat of s'd Land, now in Court may
more fully appear. And I being Exposed to make Sale of
my former settlement to answer the charges & carrying on
of s'd Building, and now being settled upon s'd Tract of
Land and having no other means to live upon but ye same,
Do therefore Humbly desire this Great & Hon'ed Court to
consider the s'd Petition of the Indians in order to a fur-
ther confirmation thereof. ******
Your Hon'es Humble Servant
"1702. June M. Read."
There can be no better proof than an oiiginal manuscript
like the above. You will observe that it i-eads "I have built
and erected a Meeting house, etc." As proof of the state-
ment the sul)scriber had been obliged to sell his own settle-
ment to meet the expense of the building. The Coller meet-
ing house, evidently, was built about the year 1700; certain-
ly, before June 3d, 1702. When John Coller presents his
petition, June 3d, the attention of the House is called to
consider the petition which the Indians had presented. That
petition is taken up at once; and upon the back of the In-
dians' petition we read the following:
"In the House of Representatives, June 5, 1702. Ordered
that the prayer of the witliin petition be granted, & the
Indians within mentioned be allowed to sell & confirm the
land mentioned, to John Coller in satisfaction for his Build-
ing them a meeting house according to the Piatt thereof Ex-
hibited to this Court, entering upon Mr. \Vm. Brown's line
on the nothern side of s'd land."
Even after this decision, the petition had several readings.
At the fifth reading, however, this final decision is made, and
In council June 6, 1705.
Read and concurred. Provided the Quantity of Land ex-
ceed not 200 acres, and that the Plat & Deed thereof to be
made and laid before the Governor & Council for their al-
lowance. ISAAC HADDINGTON,
Agreed to in the House of Representatives,
THOMAS OAKES, Speaker.
The third Meeting House was the Peabody House, of 1721;
but 21 years is so short a period to represent the life-time of
a Meeting House, it has been suggested, that this Meeting
House was only the Coller House repaired and refitted. To
prove that such was not the case, and that the House of 1721
was an entirely distinct building, I have transcribed the
following document, which is a translation of the Indian let-
ter to the Governor, The House is built by one Jebis by
name, who is a regular cheat, a perfect type of those traders
who came among the Indians solely for what they could
make out of them. Jebis builds the Meeting House so poor-
ly, and charges so much for his exceedingly defective work
that the Indians write to the Governor, desiring him to com-
pel Jebis to make restitution.
For this manuscript see State Files Vol, 31, p. 97 et. seq.
The Governor Generall of Boston &c.
The Indians pray him to give attention to what they rep-
i-esent to him, relating to the building their church.
1. At the begin'g of the work, the workmen would not
undertake the work, but by the day, seeing they should do
the less work & be well ^ay'd. In effect although three of
those workmen had never handled an ax, being tailers by
trade or Shoomakers or Weavers, they had each of 'em a
beavor skin a day, & Jebis & the negroe had each of 'em one
Si almost a half. Thus were they pay'd every Saturday, &
for their labour having rec'd 21-3 Beavors, thej^ advanct the
building no higher than the rising of the windows, wliich are
six feet hi<>"h.
2. After this they were bid to leave off or to work by the
great, there was bat 10 feet more in height to be done, for
the building should be 16 ft. high, 65 long & 24 broad. All
the carpentry for the roof & bellfry being made and prepard,
Jebis undertakes it & asks 600 lbs of beavor, promising that
in four mouths time he would finish the building as far as
concerned the Carpenter work. That for the boards they
must make another bargain. The desire they had to see the
building finisht caus'd 'em to agree with his demands, viz :
600 lbs. beavor.
8. What Jebis promist to do in four months is not finisht
in four years. He came hither for nothing almost, but to
bring where-with-all to trade with the Indians, aijd returned
after some days to carry away the beavor of his trade, and
what was given him in advance for his work as he demanded
it. This double profit which he made carry "d him away to
prolong the work.
4. This last spring he came to make a bargain for the
boards for the covering for the roof and ceiling (or floor.)
There must be 8,000 feet. He asks for the boards shingles
and nails 104 £. 5 s. in money. They agree to his demand
on condition that the building shall be finisht the fall. To
which he answer'd that if he did not finish it, he would never
handle an ax. The bargain concluded^^he departs to go see
his Father at Menaskoukus saying he would return in eight
days. He demands on this last that they advance 200 lbs.
of beavor. They let him have 134 lbs. Towards the end of
the Summer not being yet returned thej sent to him twice to
tell him that if he did not come and finish the building against
the end of the fall he should come no more here. But he did
not regard what was say'dCto him, Having carry'd away 134
lbs. beavor. Thus Jebis has behaved himself although they
always treated him well. The mischief nevertheless would
be more tolerable if he had wrought well, and that he had
made a handsome and good building. But whoever will
view it, will find these defects.
1. He has plac't it just as the ground was, instead of dig-
ging to the firme earth as he ought to have done.
2. In squaring the pieces he has kept no measure, nor
made use of any rule, that he might have done the sooner,
therefore there is not the same thickness in the pieces, but
all of different thickness which has occasioned the building
to be larger above by 10 inches than it is below.
3. Of the fine doors that there are, there is not one yt is
well. This appears at first sight to the eye, there is not one
that is on a levell, & all larger above by four fingers than
below. It's just so with the windows.
4. The boards could not be worse saw'd than they are.
They are on one side a great deal thinner than on t'other &
all saw'd twisting.
•'). The joists to uphold the ceiling, all ill cut, & bending
under 'em like rushes.
6. The bellfry is not all solid, the two workmen that cov-
er'd it, not without fear advis'd not to put a bell there, a-
feariug 'twould fall down as soon as 'twas rung. Neverthe-
less we have two to put there.
7. The covering of Shingles is ill made, it's easy to see
the holes that a-re in it.
8. I leave the other smaller defects, in a word, one may
onely see the building to judge that it is ill done, altho' he
has been pay'd much more for it than it is worth, one could
not believe it, but we put down the particulars.
I. Two hundred & thirteen beavors, to the height of the
II. 600 lbs. l>eavor for the rest. This has all been pay'd &
Here is what he should have furnish't on the last bargain
respecting the boards, the shingles, & nails. He should have
supplied with <s,000 feet of boards, 16 thousand of small
nails, 5 thousand a little bigger for the boards, this is what
he said & what was agreed on. Here is what he has fur-
nish't. For the covering & roof 3,420 pieces of boards, for
the vault 2,250 feet without placing them. He made the
Shingles for the covering. He knows what that is worth.
The small nails were enough for the covering. As for the
others there was scarce enough to nail the boards of the cov-
ering, & he say'd in the agreement that he had brought
5,000, & that we might depend on it. We believed him, &
likewise for the price 38 shillings per. thousand, altho' we
very well knew that they cost but 14 shillings. This is all
he has done & furnish't relating to the last agreement. This
is evident to the ej^e, for which he has rec'd at divers times
as he demanded it, 24 lb. 1-4 beavor with one Otter.
53 lb. beavor. 41 " '' 43 martins.
28 " '• 134 " '' He can deny noth-
ing of all this & he agrees to it in effect. He has made the
last agreement by reckoning by shillings. We also make
the pay'm't by shillings, the pound of beavor 3s, 6d., the
same each martin. Let us suppose now what he has done &
supply'd with what he has rec'd 'twill be found that he is
indebted 300, or near 300 s., that on the contrary', if we are
indebted to him, he would have no reason to ask pay"mt fur
his bad work, to prolong the time of work, & in fine for
abandoning it. He that quits the game loses it. There is no
place in the world where justice is kept, where tliey were not
commanded to mend what has been considerably ill done, that
if they refus'd it, others should do it at their chargis or he
should be condemn'd to return what he shall ])e adjudged to.
This is what the Indians represent to the Gov'r General of
Boston. All that the Indians represent to the Govern'r they
say'd to Jebis here in full council, to which he could give no
answer. But otherwise he will make use of lying to defend
"Letter from the Indians to the Govern'r. Translated
By Rey. H. Alger.
Psalms: xxvi, 8. "Lord, I have loved the habitation of
thv house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth,"
The spot on which we are assembled is consecrated ground.
Here successively at least four houses for public worship
have been erected, the first having been built more than two
and a quarter centuries ago. For nearly forty years it was
the scene of the pious labors of one of the most devoted and
self-sacrificing missionaries the world ever saw. Though
endowed with popular talents which would have placed him
in the first rank among the divines and men of education
and culture of the colony, yet the degraded condition of
the aborigines cfxcited his compassion, and early determined
him to devote a large part of his time to their instruction.
The translation ot the whole of the scriptures of the Old and
New Testaments into the Indian language, which he had
acquired for the purposes of his mission, would alone have
l^een sufficient to constitute the work of a life-time. This
enterprise had in his view an importance which it has long
since ceased to have in the view of those of later times, and
which stimulated him to persevere, amid discouragements,
with slender means and with little assistance in the execu-
tion of a work "performed not in the flush of youth, nor
within the luxurious abodes of academic ease, but under the
constant burden of his duties as a minister and preacher, and
at a time of life when the spirits begin to flag." Though he
had been the minister of the first church in Roxbury almost
sixty years, he will ever be known and remembered as the
apostle to the Indians. His indefatigable labors, begun and
prosecuted with no reference to worldly distinction, will
cause his name and character to be remembered and revered
when those of most of his contemporaries shall have been
The earlier meeting houses on this spot were all mission-
ary churches, the ministers being in part supported by the
society in England for the propagation of th« gospel in New
England, and the congregations consisting of Indians and
such white people as had settled in the place. During the
latter part of Mr. Peabody's ministry and the whole of Mr.
Badger's, the number of Indians having dwindled and that
of the white people much increased, and a considerable por-
tion of the latter not being accommodated b}- the location of
the meeting house, a bitter controversy arose about that lo-
cation, and it never ceased until after the close of Mr. Badg-
er's ministry, when a new church was built in the centre of
the town. No services vrere held here after 1798; the meet-
ing house gradually fell into decay, and was finally demol-
ished in 1812.
During the first quarter of the present century the.e was
no place of public worship in this part of the town. A por-
tion of those who had attended on Mr. Badger's ministry
here became worshippers in the new church erected in tiie
centre oi the town, A larger number joined the parish of
the Rev. Mr. Noyes of West Needham. Some went to the
neighboring churches in SherJjorn and Dover. For several
years before the erection of this church, the fiftieth anniver-
sary of whose dedication we commemorare to-day, — with the
increase of the population, a desire sprung up here to iuive
again a place of public worship in their midst. Informal
meetings of the inhabitants were, no doubt, held from time
to time, having a view to organize a religious society, peti-
tioning the Legislature for an Act of Incorporation, and
building a meeting house. We have the record <^f but two
of those meetings, previous to the incorporation of the soci-
ety, the first having been held on the 11th of February,1828,
which is entitled "A meetmg of the subscribers tor the pur-
pose of building a meeting house in the south parish in the
town." It was held at Brooks" tavern agreeably to public
netice; Captain John Bacon being Moderator and Leonard
Perry, Clerk. At that meeting a committee of three was
''chosen, and authorized to let out and contract for the
building of a meeting house on oi near the spot where the
old meeting house in the soath part of Natick stood or such
as shall he designatad by the Society about to be incorpo-
rated/' Elijah Perry and Thomas Phillips were the con-
tractors who undertook the erection of the house, the latter
with Nathan Phillips of West Dedham being the carpenters
who superintended the doing of the work. It was voted at
this meeting that "the payments be made to the contractors,
one third April 10th. one third August 10th, the remainder
when the house is completed." At a meeting of the sub-
scribers, held Oct. o, following, a committee* was chosen "to
superintend the tinishing of the common around the meeting
house in such a manner as their judgment shall dictate." At
an adjourninent of the same meeting a committee was chosen
to procure a bell, f
The south parish in Natick, for whose use this church was
built, was incorporated b}- an act of the Legislature, March
1st, 1828. riie names of thirty persons are given in the act
as constituting the society, --with such others as may here-
after associate themselves with them. '"J A meeting to or-
gani/ie under the act was held April 8, 1828, at which a com-
mittee of five was chosen to locate a site for the meeting
house. The parish committee was also authorized to hire
preaching, but it does not appear that any meetings were
held for public worship until after the dedication of the
church. At a subsequeijt meeting, a committee was ap-
pointed to apprai^se the pews, who were directed to assess
#3500 upon them, which was probably about what the house
cost. At an adjournment of the meeting they reported such
an appraisal, and their report was accepted. There was never
any sale of pews, and no pews ever became the property of
*The eominittee consisted ol" Araory Morse, Lowell Perry, Josiah Bigelow,
Thomas Pliillips and Job Brooks. The A'ork was done according to a plan
exhibited for that purpose by .Josiah Bigelow.
tThis coiuiaittee consisted of Pliares Sawin and Col. Abraham Bigelow.
jFor a list and some notices of the corporators se« the appendix at the
fnd of the Discourse.
The dedication took place Nov. 20th. The services on the
occasion were as follows: Introductory prayer by Rev. John
B. Wight of Wayland; selections of scriptures by Rev. John
White of Dedham; dedicatory prayer by Rev. Ralph Sanger
of Dover; sermon by Rev. Charles Lowell, D. D., of Boston;
concluding prayer by Rev. Daniel C. Sanders, D. D., of Med-
field. Original hymns were prepared for the occasion by
William and Josiah Bigelovv. The sermon was from Haggai,
II. 9, "In this will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts."
The doctrine being that union of sentiment among Christ-
ians is not essential to peace. Of those v/ho took part in the
services of the occasion the venerable Mr. Wight of Way-
land, now nearly ninety years of age, who, we hoped, would
be able to be with us to-day, has for many vears been the
In looking over the list of corporators and of those who
were prominent in the establishment of the society, we find
several of the names of Biglovv, Bacon and Perry. The
name of Isaac Biglow heads the list. Abraham and Isaac,
Jr., were also among the corporators, and Josiah was an ear-
ly member. The Biglows were among the prominent fami-
lies of the town. William Biglow, a graduate of Harvard
College in 1794, was one of this family,' At one time he was
the principal of the Boston Latin School. He was a poet
and wit of no ordinary powers, and furnished good hymns,
as did also his nephew, Josiah, for both the dedication of the
church and the ordination of the first minister. In IH'SO, he
published an authentic and valuable history of the town.
His father. Deacon William Biglow, was the Deacon Badger
of Mrs. Stowe's 'Old Town Folks." The mother of Profes-
sor Calvin E. Stowe was one of this family. John Bacon,
Sr., was one of the largest contributors to the expense of
building the church, and he and his sons, John Jr. and Oli-
ver, were among the leading members of the society. John
Bacon, Jr., early removed to New York. Oliver, recently
deceased, always felt a strong interest in the society, and, at
his death, made a bequest of -$5,000 to the parish for the sup-
*HiB letter replying to bis invitation may l)e found in the appendix.
port of worship here. The name of Elijah Perry stands sec-
ond among the corporators, and he was among the most ac-
tive in the movement for erecting the church and sustaining
the .societ}'. As has been stated, he was one of the contrac-
tors who undertook the building of the house. His son,
Leonard Perry, was one of the first deacons of the church,
continuing to hold the office as long as he remained in town.
Hon. Amos Perr}^ now of Providence, R. I.,' was, in his
youth, connected with the first Sunday School, and played an
instrument in the first choir. Some of the family have con-
tinued active members of the parish to the present time.
J(jhu Atkins, Esq., was not one of the original corporators,
but, after the completion of the house, he became one of the
active and influential members of the society, and did as
much as any one to promote its prosperity. He was, for
many years, a ship-master, removing here towards the end
of the last century,  from Truro, Cape Cod, of which
place both he and his wife [Jane Avery] were natives. Af-
ter the death of the Rev, Mr. Badger, he became the agent
«)f Mrs. Badger l^^r the management of her business and the
care of her property. After his death Mr. Blanchard
preached a funeral sermon which was published. Thomas
Phillips, also one of the corporators, has already been men-
tioned as one of the contractors for building the church and
superintendents of the work. He became a member of the
church at its formation, and was soon made one of the dea-
cons, which office he held till his death in 1873. He was es-
pecially attached to the liberal views of truth which we hold,
and was a \vorthy example of the pure character and exem-
plary deportment which they are fitted to produce.
There were others worthy to be remembered, some of
whose names I can only mention, as Phares, Calvin, Thomas
and Baxter Sawin; Charles, Amory and John Morse, 2d;
John Mann; Stephen H. Spalding, M. D.; Moses Eames and
Pardon Albee. The number of active members of the so-
ciety soon after its organization and at the settlement of
their first minister was larger than it has been at any time
After the dedication, stated services were held, and a Sup-
day School maintained in the church on the Sabbath, the
pulpit being supplied, for a while, by ministers of the neigh-
boring churches, and afterwards, by young men from Cam-
bridge, among whom was Mr. James W. Thompson, a mem-
ber of the Divinity School, whose very acceptable services
secured him a unanimous call,. Dec. 31, 1829. He accepted
the call, and was ordained Feb. 17, 1830. The public ser-
vices on the occasion were as follows: —
Introductory prayer by Rev. Mr. Sanger of Dover; selec-
tions from scriptures by Rev. J. L. Sibley of Stowe; sermon
by Rev. Alexander Young of Boston; charge by Rev. James
Thompson ofBarre, father of the minister elect; right hand
of fellowship by Rev. Luther Hamilton of Taunton; address
to the society by Rev. Charles Briggs of Lexington; conclud-
ing prayer by Rev. Bernard Whitman of Waltham. Three
original hymns were sung, written by William and Josiah
Biglow. Mr. Young's text was John, viii, 12, ••! am the
light of the world." The subject, "Christianity designed and
adapted to be a universal religion." Of those who partici-
pated in these services Mr. Sibley, the venerable Librarian
Emeritus of Harvard University, is believed to be the only
On the 11th of March, 1830. a church was gathered and
embodied, consisting of members dismissed for that purpose,
from the churches of Natick and Dover, together with some
other persons who offered themselves for membership. Rev.
Mr. Sanger of Dover, being present and acting as moderator,
read a Declaration and Covenant which received the signa-
tures and assent of tht)pe seeking membership, the ordinance
of baptism being administered to one of them.* A sermon
was preached on the occasion by Mr. Sanger, when it was
publicly announced that a church had been regularly formed
agreeably to congregational usage. The Lord's Supper was
first admini&tersd in this church on the 28th of March, 1 830,
to twenty-two communicants.
♦ThomaB Phillips, afterwards elected deacou.
This first ministry, commencing und^r such favorable au-
spices, and so eminently harmonious and prosperous while it
lasted, was destined to be of short continuance. Mr.
Thompson, having received a call from the Barton Square
Society, Salem, this society reluctantly consented to the dis-
solution of his connection with them at the end of the sec-
ond year of his ministry. His large success and distin-
guished usefulness in other fields of labor intensifies the feel-
ing of regret that he could not have continued here.
After the close of Mr. Thompson's ministry the pulpit
continued vacant about a year and a half. In May, 1883,
Mr. Edward Palmer commenced preaching here, and at
length. Oct. 12, received a call to become the minister of this
parish for three years. • He had been recommended to this
society by Kev. Bernard Whitman of Waltham, who preached
tht' sermon at his ordination on the 30th of October. Mr.
Palmer was young and inexperienced, and his services did not
long continue satisfactory to the people, and, on the 2nd of
September, 1834, after a ministry of ten months, his relation
to the parish was dissolved at his own request.
After an interval of a few months, the parish united in a
call to the Rev. Ira Henry Thomas Blanchard to become
their minister. Mr. Blanchard. a native of Weymouth, Mass.,
graduated at Harvard College in the class of 1817, and hav-
ing held the office of tutor in th'.; college, at the same time
pursuing, in his leisure hours, his theological studies, was at
length settled over the first Congregational church in Har-
vard in the beginning of 1823. There he remained eight
years, till a severe and long-continued illness compelled him
to relinquish his pastoral charge. After a few years he so
tar recovered his health as to accept the call of this parish
for a term of five years, and was installed Feb. 25, 1835.*
His ministry here was a harmonious and useful one, continu-
ing to the end of the five years for which he had been en-
gaged. It was during his ministry that the Ladies' Social
Circle, who had always done their full share in keeping up
the religious life and interest of the church and in contrib-
uting to its material needs, under the influence of Mrs.
*Tlie order of exercises at bis installation may be found in the appendix.
Blanchard, a woman of high character and rare worth, who
was always active in all good enterprises, established a li-
brary for the use of its members, which has been increasing
ever since in size and usefulness. For man}' years it was
under the careful charge of Mrs. Oliver Bacon as its efficient
librarian, and, after her death, her husband erected a neat
and commodious building to receive it, which stands in the
shaded enclosure containing the Eliot monument, and pre-
sented to the Ladies' Social Circle, out of regard to the great
interest which hi^ wife had taken in it, and as a tribute to
her memory. And, at his, own death, Mr. Bacon made a
very liberal bequest of a very considerable sum to erect a
spacious fire-proof building and to constitute a fund, placing
it in the hands of trustees, to establish and sustain a free
library for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the town, to
which he was undoubtedly moved l)y the interest wliich he
and his wife took in this village library.
At the end of the five yeai's for wliich Mr. Bhinchaid had
been engaged, the parish, highly appreciating the value ot
his services, proposed to him to ]-enew his engagement, but
the precarious state of his health and his wish to devote
himself to the care and comfort of his aged an<l widowed
mother, led him to decline. He, however, offered to supply
the pulpit three months longer, which offer was gratefulls-
accepted. He removed to Weymouth, his native plae.'.
where he survived, about five years. These last years were
years of much weakness and suffering. He was able, how-
ever, occasionally to supply vacant pulpits, and declined one
call to another settlement. He at length became the victim
of consumption, his death taking place April U, 1845. If he
had enjoyed good health, his more than oidinaiy ability and
his great excellence would have insured him a distinguished
rank in his profession.
During the next two yeare the parish were without a set-
tled minister, the pulpit being occupied by transient sup-
plies. In 1841, a subscription was raised to paint the church
and repair the fence around it, and it is presumed that these
repairs were made at that time.
Early in the spring of 1843. the parish invited the Rev.
Thomas Brattle Gannett to take the pastoral charge of the
society for five years. He accepted the invitation and en-
tered upon his duties without an installation. Mr. Gannett
had previously been, for nearly twenty years, the pastor of a
church in Cambridgeport, where he "approved himself a
faithful and devoted minister, conciliating the affection and
commanding the respect t)f the flock by his exemplary life
and devotion to their service."* At this time more than
usual interest was manifested here by the addition of about
twenty new members to the parish. A code of by-laws was
also adopted, relating chiefly to the conditions of member-
ship; and the regulation of the finances of the society.
It was during the ministry of Mr. Gannett, in Oct., 1847,
that some public-spirited individuals, headed by Rev. Mr.
(Jaunett, Hon. Henry Wilson and Mr. Oliver Bacon, caused
the monument to be erected to the memory of Eliot now
standing within tlie enclosure eml)racing a part of the Indian
burying g)ound. The pleasant grove in the enclosure around
the. inonuuient was set out al)Out this time. A large and
venerable red oak, which some maintain to have been the
Eliot Oak, rather than the large white oak now standing, —
turmeily stood near where the town pump now stands, which
having become somewhat decayed, was cut down about that
time by a citizen living in the vicinity. Its fall caused much
regret and indignation on the part of many leading inhabi-
tants wild believed that it might have l)een preserved for
Until tlie eai-ly jiart of 1848 this had been the only place
of worship in this part of the town. In February of that
year, the Baptists organized a church here, worshipping in
the Hall of the Public House, but, three years later, in Feb-
ruary, 1857, they removed to the centre of the town, where
they erected a church in which they have ever since wor-
At the end of the five years for which he was originally
engaged, Mr- Gannett was reengaged for a further term of
service, and continued his pastorate till April 1, 1850. After
*C'hrt!<tUw E.raminrr. for July. 1851, page loO.
the close of his ministry, he continued to reside at South Na-
tick, in failing health, where he survived about a year, and
died on the 19th of April, 1851. Though not possessing
brilliant talents, or the highest intellectual endowments, he
was yet "known and trusted for his moral excellence, his
kind affections, his sound practical judgment in regard to the
duties and exigencies of life, and his efficient usefulness."
In a tribute to his memory, written soon after his death, it is
truthfully said, "It belonged to Mr. Gannett's nature to
shrink from publicity, but his tenderness of conscience never
permitted him to neglect a duty while his sound discretion
guided him to the right performance of it. Many within the
walks of the profession which he loved have been more emi-
nent, but few more esteemed. And when the distinction
which the world and the church confer upon genius and elo-
quence and learning shall be lost in the more enduring dis-
tinctions of virtue, we beli'^^vc that our friend will be found
with them 'of whom (xod is not ashamed to be called their
Father, having provided for them a kingdom.' "'■■'
On the 1st of October, IH.,0, Rev. James liuirstun, who
had recently been the minister of the Unitarian society in
Billerica, was engaged to become the minis<^er and pastor of.
this church and societ}' for six months, at the end of which,
the engagement was renewed for one year. His connectit)n
with the church and society terminated in ApiiK 18oil. He
graduated at Harvard in 1829, and from the Theological
School, in 1835. He was a man of mucli culture and schol-
arly attainments, and his ministry here was a harmoijious and
prosperous one. As a member of the school committee of the
town, he was active, in connection with Judge Bacon, in the
original establishment of the High School in the town. The
last years of his life were spent in West Newton, where he
died of consumption, in 1872.
Rev. Nathaniel O. Chaffee succeeded Mr. Thurston in the
charge of this pulpit, and remained one year till April, 1853.
when Rev. Edward Stowe, a native of Framingham, a gradu-
ate of Brown University, in 1835, and of the Cambridj:;e
*Chr't!stian Examiner, for July, ls.")l. page 160,
Divinity School in 1839, took his place. On entering the
ministry, he preached awhile at the West. Returning, he
was settled a few years at Barnstable, Mass. Subsequently,
for ten or twelve years, he ministered successfully to the so-
cieties in Calais. Bucksport and Hallowell, Maine. He re-
mained here as minister two years, closing his ministry the
last of May, 1855. Mr^ Stov\^e was a good and acceptable
preacher, a diligent student, a faithful and highly esteemed
pastor, earnest and conscientious in his work, and a person of
great purity of character. He was much interested in Natu-
i-al History and scientific studies, and, a few years since, was
elected an Honoiary Member of our Historical and Natural
History Society. After leaving here he went to Framing-
ham to take the care of his aged parents, where he died, some-
wliat suddenly, in 1877.
After about two years" interruption of the continuity of the
pastoral relation, in May, 1857. Rev. William G, Babcock
came heie from Harvard, Mass., and assumed the pastoral of-
fice for one year. Having first labored as minister at large in
the city of Providence, and afterwards fiUed'the ministerial
office in Lunenburg and Harvard, he brought to his work
here considerable experience, and so far met the wishes and
expectations of the people as to be reengaged for two years
more. He closed his laliors here in Fel)ruary, 1860. It was
in the last year of his ministry that an orthodox Congrega-
tional society was organized, and its first minister ordained.*
After a short ministry in Scituate, Mass., Mr. Babcock be-
came the minister of tlu^ Warren Street Chapel, Boston.
where he still remains. We are very happy to have his aid
in the services to-day.
In May, 1860, I commenced the supply of the pulpit, and
continued in the ministerial office here till April, 1874, a
period of almost fourteen years. I have not proposed to my-
self to give any account, on this occasion, of my labors dur-
ing those years. But I feel constrained to improve this op-
portunity to bear witness to the uniform courtesy and kind
*The services of ordination were held in this church, ou Wednesday, No-
vember 1(3, 18.59. wlien Rov, Calvin E. Stowe. a native of this place,
xreafhpil tlie sermon.
appreciation, on the part of this people, of my poor labors in
their service, to their liberality in doing what they could for
my support, and to their sincere and heart-felt sympathy in
my sorrows, as I have often sought to bring them comfoi-t
and hope in theirs. I would fain hope it ma}^ prove, as they
have seemed to believe, that some good and worthy results
have come from my labors among tliem. Though my minis-
try has been about twice as long as the longest of my prede-
cessors, it was a satisfaction to feel and know that they were
willing and desirous that I should serve them yet longer; and
after I ceased to be their minister, the}^ luive never been
wanting in heart-felt respect and kindness to me in my de-
clining days. Not knowing where else I could find so pleas-
ant a home in my loneliness, I propose to cast my lot here;
and, varying slightly the words of the apostle, 1 would say
to this people, "Only let your conversation l)e as becometh
the gospel of Christ, that whether I remain with you. or be-
ing absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in
one spirit, with one mind, striving togethei' for the faith of
In less than six months after my resignation, Septeral)er
30, 1874, my successor, Rev. Joseph P, Sheafe, Jr., was or
dained to the ministry here, and he has already entered on
the fifth year of his service.* He has brought to this, his
first charge, an excellent spirit and a degree of energy, en-
thusiasm and zeal, that, with a hearty cooperation on the
part of the people, which, I trust, will not be wanting, prom-
ise the best results in the future. Thus, I will not permit
myself to doubt, he will strengthen the things that remain,
and will be able to build up. — if not a large society in the
near future, — one strong in its unity of spirit, an active par-
ish and a living church.
To return, for a moment, in conclusion, to the meeting-
house, the point from which we set out. Many inprovements
have been made, within the half century of its existence, to
which I may refer. About a quarter of a century ago, an
organ was placed in the church to supersede the use of the
*For the order of services at his ordination sf^e the apijeiidix.
bass-viols, violins, clarionets and flates, which had been used
as an accompaniment to the music before. Since 1860, when
I became the minister, the wall, and the stone posts and
steps have been put around and in front of the church, the
roof has been slated, new windows of stained glass have been
put in, the projection for the pulpit has been built out, the
interior has been frescoed, and the aisles carpeted, the
house has been painted within and without, and a new tower
has been erected and a clock has been placed upon it. This
hist — the clock — was purchased at the expense of the vil-
lage, and is not exclusively parish property.
In all these changes and improvements, we have had the
indispensable aid of one of our summer residents and fellow-
worshipers,* whose works of quiet, unostentatious benefi-
cenc3 have come from the love of doing good for its own
sake, and of whose innumerable and little-known acts of char-
ity and mercy — it will never be realized how many and great
they have been, until he is no longer spared to do them.
I think we may safely claim that our church, at present,
is a more commodious and tasteful and pleasant place of
worship than that in which the fathers met fifty years ago
to-day. If those who come after us, fifty years hence, shall
wish and seek for a better church, may they, by building
into it so much of the Christian spirit of self-consecration,
and love, and purity, make good the claim that the glory of
the latter house shall be greater than that of the former.
*H. H. Flunmnvell. Esq.
As slated in the foregiting discourse, tlie Act of Incorporation oft lit'
Soutli Congregational, now tlie First Unitaiian parish of Natick, \v:is
dated March 1, 1828. Tlie following ai'e the thirty names given iu the Act
as constituting the Society:
John Bacon, Jr.,
John P. Barnes.
Mrs. Hannah Dra])er
John Atkins, Jr.,
Stephen H. Spalding
John Morse, 2d,
Isaac Biglow. Jr.,
who died April 18. 18.j4, aged 77 years
" •' November lil, 184."), '• 74
*' December 7. 18;JG, '' (Ki
" Octobef 1<), 1873, •• Sr>
•' in New York, August 1"). is."):). '• ','.)
" in Baltimore, June 4, ]8.jU, " <io
" in Dover, April 28. lS4o, "■ (>i»
" August 27, 183(), •• »;:;
•' '• August l.>, ]8(i(). •• 83
still living iu Woburn.
who died March 19, 18.")(i, ■ •• (Hj
It is not known what became of liim.
who died Apiil 13, 187S. •• 81
. •' " in Niedham. September 24, 1851. '• <t!)
Tho removed to Vermont in 1829. and died soon after
who kept the Hotel in 1828, but early left th.- tt.w n.
who removed to Charlton, wliere he died,
who died January 20, 1839, ;i-ed f)4 yeais
" " November 17, I8(i(). " (it)
" " in Waltham, August 23. 1832, " 33 '•
" " January fi, 1872. •' s.")
•' July 1, 1873, •• 7(3
His hisloiy is unknown.
, M. D., who died July 15, InCm. •• 7(5
who died September 15, 1854. *• 55
'• January 14, 18.58, •• G9
'' " December 31, lS(i4. •• 05
■' " in Dover, Deceml)er 2(), 1S47. " 59
•• April 22, 1859, •• 58 ••
who removed to Boston, where be died a few vears
Only one, Lindall Perry, was living du the fiflietli anniversary of the
dedication of the meeting house.
The names of sixty-six additional members were added by or before
April, 1831, making, with the thirty corporators, ninety-six members of the
The following was the Order of Services at the Installation of the Kev.
I. H. T. Blanchard as pagtoi of the South Congregational Society in Na-
tick. February 25, 18;>r>: —
I. Anthem. II. Introductory Prayer and Reading of the Scriptures,
by Rev. ,J. W. Thompson. III. Original Hymn, written by Josiah Big-
low. IV. Sermon by Kev. Con vers Francis of \Valei town. V. Prayer of
Installation by Rev. Alvau Lam.son of Dedham. VI. Charge by Rev.
Francis Parkman. I).- I)., of Boston. VII. Kight Hand of Fellowship by
Rev. E. S. Cannett of Boston. VIII. Address to the Society by Rev.
John Pierpont of Boston. IX. Couciuding Pi'ayer by Rev. Chandler
Robbins of Boston. X. Original PTTYe4H written by Mrs. .Sarah \. Dowe.
XI. Benediction by the pastor.
The order of services at the oniinaiion of Rev. Joseph P. Slieafe, Jr ,
Septembei 80, 1874. was as f(dlows: —
I. Invocation, by Rev. Horat'io Alger oi Souih Natick. II. Selection
by the choir. III. Reading from the Scriptures, by Rev. Alfred E.
.Mullett of Sherborn. IV. Hymn. V. Sennon by Rev. Rufns Ellis,
D. D., of Boston. VI. Ordainins^ Prayer, by Rev. C. C. Fverett, D. D.. of
('ambridge. VII. Hymn. VIII. Change, by Professor Edward J.
Young of Cambridge. IX. Riglit Hatul of Fellowship, by Rev. U. M.
Wilson of Melrose. X. Anthem. XI. Address to the People, by Rev.
W. H. Cudworth of East Boston. XII. Concluding Prayer, by Rev. S. D.
Hosmer of South Xatick. XIII. Doxology, "From all who dwell below
the skies,"" etc. XIV. Benediclinn by the Pastor.
(omiiiemoration ot the Semi-C'enteniiial Anniversary of the Dedication
of the linitarian Church, November 20, I84H.
At the aTinual parish meeting of the First Unitarian Society, held March
27,1878, after discussion, it was unanimously voted to commemorate the
semi-centennial anuiveisary of the dedication of the church by suitable
public services, and .1 committee was chosen to make the necessary arrange-
ments for the commemoration. Rev. Horatio Alger, Rev. Joseph P. Sheafe,
Jr., Oliver Bacon, Elijah Perry, Elliot Perry and the Standing Committee of
the parish, Aaron Wheeler, E. M. Phippsaiid Heniy Hancock, were chosen
as said (Jommittee of Arrangements. In accordance with the vote of the
society, and in pursuance of the arrangements made by the committee, the
services of commemoration took place in the church on Wednesday, No-
>'ember 2Uth. The weather proved stormy, thus deferring many who
would otherwise have attended from being present.* Nevertheless, a
goodly number appeared at the church and participated in the interesting
exercises. Among them were a few — some seven or eight — who were at
».V friend who was present at the dedication tif'ty years ago informs >is that tlie
weatlier was also s>toriiiy ou'that otoasion.
the dedication fifty years ago. All the surviving ex-ministers were present.
At 10-45 o'clock, A. M., the exercises of the day were opened by an an-
them from the choir. Rev. William G. Babcock of the Warren Street
Chapel, Boston, formerly a pastor of this church, then read appropriate
selections from the scriptures. An impressive prayer was next offered by
Professor Edward J. Young of Harvard University. The choir then sung
the following hymn, written by Josiah Biglow, and sung at the ordinatior.
of the first pastor: —
Here first, O Lord, the red men woke
^ Their wild, untutored song to Thee;
Their altar was the foiest oak,
Their temple, heaven's high canopy.
And where the hearth, with cheerful blaze,
Welcomes a more enlightened throng,
The desert heard their simple praise.
And echoed back their grateful song.
O. where is now the gathered band.
That met in olden time to pray'.*
And where that holy man. whose hand
First led them on their pilgrim way?
Peaceful they slumbei, side by side,
Where they Thy holy name avowed ;
The warrior's plume, the chieftain's pride.
Before a stranger race are bowed.
Rich in the fulness of his days,
That veteran of the cross is gone;
His spirit heard the toil-earned praise,
•'Thou servant of the Lord, well done!"
Rev. J. P. Sheafe. Jr.. next proceeded to deliver the first of the fore-
going historical addresses. This was followed by the singing of the follow-
ing original liymi.. wiitten for the occasion by Horatio Alger^ Jr. :—
Eternal God, whose mighty power
Controls the slowly circling spheres,
And yet whose all-oervading love
E'en in the humblest life'appears. v'
Thy people, shielded by the-care, ^- ''J
Have walked in peace these fifty yeais
In other lands. Thy worshipers
Have reared, with toil, vast, stately piles.
And unto Thee their reverent eyes
Uplift in dim cathedral aisles;
We, in this humbler temple met.
Have shared the sunshine of Thy smiles.
Beneath this roof the song of praise
Hath blended with the voice of prayer.
As, week by week, thy children met
To thank Thee for the guardian care
That guides our steps and keeps us safe,
Not only here, but everywhere.
Our Father, m tlie years to come,
Be with us as in days gone by!
O. hll us with a sacred joy
When the last summons comes — to die,
And from this lowly temple lift
Our spirits to Thy home on high!
The foregoing i*eiiii-cenleiniial address was then delivered by Rev.
At the close of the services in the church, the audience adjourned to the
Scliool House Hall, where a collation had been provided by the Society.
Having returned to the church, at 2 o'clock. Rev. S. W. Bush, pastor
of the church at Needham, at the request of the Committee of Arrange-
ments, acted as Chairman. Kev. Mr. Alger read the following letter from
the Rev. John B. Wight of Wayland, now in his eighty-ninth year, and the
sole survivor who took part in the dedicatory services of fifty years ago:
Wayland, Nov. 20th, 1878.
Rev. Horatio Alger. South Xatick.
The infirmities of age preclude me from hoping to be bodi-
ly piesent with you at the approaching commemoration of tlie first fifty
years since 'he dedication of your house of worship. I hope, however, I
may be able to be in some measuje present with you in spirit and thus
participate in the pleasant recollections, the holy feelings and the heavenly
hopes, connected with the interesting occasion.
With liigh regal d,
JOHN B. WIGHT,
ill the 80fh year of my age.
There were other letters expressing regret at tlieir inabilitv to attend
from friends, who, it was hoped, would be present.
After some appropriate eulogistic remarks by the Chairman on the char-
acter of ihe New England clergy, he introduced Rev. Dr. Thompson of
Jamaica Plain, the first pastor of this church, who touched a tender chord
in loving reminiscences of his South Natick congregation, and gave a brief
characterization of some of the neighboring pastors. He gave some per-
sonal recollections of Rev. Dr. Sanger of Dover, and of Messrs. William
and Josiah Biglow. and made a tender reference to Mrs. Oliver Bacon.
Wlien his pastorate ceased, many years ago, he gave the people his youthful
benediction: he now wished them to receive an old man's blessing.
ReT. William Gr. Babcock, also a foimer pastor, desciibed the audience-
room as he knew it. Though the times were troublous, from various
causes, yet a loving spirit was shown. He referred to the mental activity
of Moses Eames, Esq.. and the honest goodness of Deacon Phillips.
Rev. S. D. Hosmer of South Natick, being called on, responded, playfully
preferring, for personal safety, a church semi-centennial to a Medfield bi-
centennial. Alluding to the establishing of another church here, he spoke
of the desire to honor Eliot by its name; and as the old church was called
the Eliot, the new one had to be called the John Eliot church.
Mr. Elijah Perry stated some interesting family facts. John Perry, his
ancestor, six generations ago, came over in the same ship that had brought
Eliot; and Lewis Jones, ancestor on the maternal side, came in 1640. His
maternal grandfather was one of the deacons of Parson Badger.
Hon. Amos Perry of Providence, R. I., si.id that fifty years ago to-day
he played a flute in the choir. He also referred to his early connection
with the Sunday School.
Rev. J. Edwards of Grantville, expressed his interest in the valuable
papers read in the morning; and Mr. William B. Trask of Dorchester, a
member of *he Historic Genealogical Societj, narrated some incidents of
Eliot's life, reading an account o the good man's narrow escape from
Rev. Mr. Pinch, of South Xatick. and Rev. A. B. Vors«? of Grantville.
also made short addresses.
The music was excellently rendered, and the services through the day. in
spite of the weeping skies, were highly appreciated and enjoyed.
The following hymns were siuig by the clmir in the afternoon: —
Semi-Centeniiial Hymn, Written by Rev. S. D. Robbins,
O! Thou, who changest not though centuries roll.
Of all we are or have, the Sun and Soul I
Thy truths sublime the generations keep
Within Thy temi)]es. though the fathers sleep.
We bless Thee for the light that streams each day.
Fresh from Thy mind, to guide us on our way:
We thank Thee for the love that flows so free
Forth from Thy heart to lead us up to Thee.
Thine are the spirits of the pure and just,
Who walked among us, true to every trust :
The fragrance ot' their memories shall rise
As incense with uur daily sacrifice.
Our Father! on that happy, heavenly shore,
Where separation shall be known no more,
Safely enfolded on Thy faithful breast,
Thy children all shall share Thy holy rest.
Dedication Hymn, Written by Josiali Biglow.
Thou Mighty One! whose boundless svay
Pervades all worlds and fills all space,
To Thee we bow, to Thee we pray.
To Thee we consecrate this place.
Here lirst the forest sons were taught
To know Thy name and own Thy word;
Here first Thy beams of truth they caught,
And nature's children owned Thee Lord.
Our fathers, on this hallowed ground,
From olden time have knelt and prayed.
And we, their children, would be found
To tread the footsteps they have made.
Again, O! Lord, Thine altars blaze.
Again Thy temple def^Us the land.
Where stranger-nati(.ns mingled praise.
Led by the Savior's guiding hand.
Cod of all people! we would bring
The offering of our praise to Thee:
And, while our lips Thy glories sing,
May eveiy heart Thy dwelling be.
This humble effort of our powers.
This lowly temple, we have given;
O! may it prove to us and ours,
Tlie house of God, the gate of heaven!